E3 2011: Blades of Time hands-on preview

Time manipulation powers are nothing new in videogames, but Konami’s Blades of Time looks like it may be using it in somewhat less-used context. The game’s action-adventure trappings make it like most other third-person hack-n-slash fare, yet with its time mechanic you can do more than simply rewind previous actions.

Taking a page from Braid, you can rewind time at any given point, creating a clone of yourself. Say for instance you’re fighting a monster using your sword. After five or ten seconds you can rewind your time gauge to the point when your previous self engaged the enemy then re-enter normal time flow. From this point you can re-enter the fray, using your current character to, say, flank an enemy, snipe them with your gunsword or just double-team the baddie from head-on.

If the blonde looks familiar (and she probably doesn’t) it’s because Blades of Time is the quasi-sequel-that-no-one-is-talking-about to the anime-inspired X-Blades, also developed by Gaijin Entertainment. Ayumi has gone through quite a change in character design – we didn’t even recognize her actually, not that X-Blades was a terribly memorable experience – which suits the game’s overall more realistic look.

The gameplay seems to be more varied too. Running through a snowy environment, we had to use Ayumi’s time-cloning abilities to fight off a number of enemies, some even involving simple strategies like using a clone to distract a shield-bearing enemy, then attacking them from the back. Simple puzzle gameplay was also introduced; at one point, Ayumi had to activate two switches at the same time by using clones to stand on them all at once.

The most interesting aspect of Blades of Time, and the one that’s still more or less being kept in the dark, is to what extent the design will change and evolve to include new and fresh uses of the time cloning mechanic. You can make several clones to help with whatever situation you may be facing, which could mean that as the game goes on tasks could become exponentially more complicated.

The closest the demo got to that was in its boss battle. Facing a massive floating foe who had minions that healed him, Ayumi had to use a lock-on dash maneuver to slash the crap out of the boss until its healing process started. After that, clones were used to distract the minions, leading to their untimely deaths. The boss’s moveset became more powerful as the battle went on, though for as hard as the demo rep impressed on us that this battle was, it didn’t take long before the boss was down for good.

It’s a good thing that the game is including more of the exploratory elements of an adventure game than in the mindless X-Blades, and the use of time mechanics in the battle was a definitely a step in the right direction in keeping an interesting gameplay flow. We’ll reserve judgment until we see more (we can’t help but maintain a healthy skeptism based on our experience with X-Blades), but expect more details as we get closertoits early 2012 release.

Jun 15, 2011

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